Beating the Odds to Help a Child See

Peters’ Anomaly is a congenital disease that results in bilateral opacity of the corneas. Cataracts and glaucoma can also be present, resulting in impaired vision. Four years ago, on the small Caribbean island of Barbados, Nathan Lewis was born with the disease.

Beating 20the 20OddsHis vision was near 20/2000 in both eyes; he could only see light. Nathan’s lack of vision affected his development and he had to use a walker to move around. Desperate to find help, his family first visited the Mass. Eye and Ear about a year and a half ago for medical treatment. Unfortunately, corneal transplants often fail with this disease, and the first attempts to correct Nathan’s vision in the left eye were less than successful. But his devoted parents, ever holding out hope that Mass. Eye and Ear doctors could help Nathan, urged another attempt at giving him sight. His father left his job to travel to Boston so that Nathan could receive medical treatment.

In December, with the support of the hospital’s International Office and Social Work Department, along with financial assistance from the Ray Tye Medical Aid Foundation, Dr. Shizuo Mukai placed a scleral buckle in Nathan’s right eye in September 2007 to reduce his risk of a retinal detachment. In subsequent surgeries, Dr. Kathryn Colby removed the cataract from this eye (link to cornea service), surgically implanted a Boston keratoprosthesis (Kpro), and replaced the lens in the eye. After the operation, Nathan began to walk on his own for the first time. The hospital’s Optical Shop donated eyeglasses to Nathan, whose vision is now 20/89. After several months in Boston, his mother and father returned to Barbados with Nathan, who will now be able to see his home for the first time, thanks to the generosity of Ray Tye and the work of a team of dedicated professionals at Mass. Eye and Ear.

“It is very difficult to restore vision in children with corneal scarring using traditional corneal transplantation techniques,” Dr. Colby said. “The Boston KPro offers hope for rapid visual recovery in these patients. Our entire team is thrilled with Nathan’s progress. This is truly a major advance in the care of children with corneal diseases such as Peters’ Anomaly.”